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up next on a second look, the first woman ever to serve on the u.s. supreme court. in her own words how sandra day o'conner got the call from president reagan. the most difficult case she faced and her latest crusade to change the way judges are chosen. a legal pioneer returned to the bay area last month. 82-year-old stanford graduate sandra day o'conner.
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the first woman to serve as a justice was in san francisco for an appearance at the o'conner club. president reagan appointed her in 1981. >> president reagan appointed the first woman to serve. a couple of people were asked to check my record. there was plenty of old newspapers and stuff about me. so they had to check it all out. >> no -- that the time. >> no no -- at that time. not too long after i was sitting in my chambers at the court of appeals in arizona, and the phone rang and it was
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the white house calling. president reagan said, sandra. yes mr. president. i would like to announce your nomination for u.s. supreme court, is that all right with you. well-- gulp. what do you say to that? i don't know. i guess mr. president. and i had to go home that afternoon and then tell my husband. you won't believe the phone call i had today. certainly affected his life even more than mine. and so, that was how i got appointed. but i think what interested ronald reagan was my life as council. he loves riding horses. and he kept some horses, even in the white house he had some horses for he and his wife. now the place where the parkway is. i even borrowed them a couple of types to go on a ride.
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but he loves ranch life, and loves horses. so i think that's what he likes about me i don't know if it was my legal ability. >> o'conner left the court in january of 2006, she said that she wanted to spend more time with her husband who had developed alzheimer's disease. she described him as always supportive. >> i told him what president reagan told me. i said john the president just called and he wants to put me on the u.s. supreme court, what do you think about that. what should you do. well you have to say yes. i mean he was amazing. it was just amazing. and he was so outgoing and so open and so decent about accepting all these things that i did. i wish every woman who is getting married could marry someone as wonderful as i did
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with john o'conner. >> reporter: reporter bruce morgan filed this report about o'conner at the time she announced her retirement. >> she is truly a person for all seasons, processing thouz unique qualities of temperament, fairness, and devotion to public good. >> reporter: did the fact that she was a woman matter? she talked to judy woodrift in 2003. >> we all bring to the court our own experiences and backgrounds. my perceptions may be different than my other colleagues but at the end of the day we all must be able to agree to some sensible solution to the problem. >> she reached this result because she was a woman. >> reporter: opened a class of
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yoga and calestetics for women in the u.s. supreme court building. >> i went to the ywca and asked if they could find me an instructor who would be willing to come here and start a class. so we did. >> reporter: she was tough, she survived breast cancer with a southern whit. >> there was constant media coverage, how does she look? when is she going to step down and give the president another vacancy on the court. you know she looks looks pale to me, i don't give her six months. >> reporter: who's the most calmest on the stage when a flag falls down in california, she had a reputation for being the swing vote, the deciding vote in lots of cases.
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>> i think that's something the media has deviced as a means of writing about the court. and i don't think that has a lot of validity. >> reporter: some criticized her as a fence setter waiting to see which way the wind would blow. >> those of you who have never met her, anybody who met her knows she makes up her own mind and she's not at all concerned where anybody else is on the spectrum. >> now for a brief -- >> reporter: she voted against a moment of silence in schools as encouraging religion but for a sponsored nativity scene which she felt did not endorse religion. why retire now? i'm 75 years old she said in a statement and i need to spend time with my husband. he is suffering from alzheimer's. and as the first woman on the court, she leaves having made a statement. >> let me tell you one reason why i think it's important and
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that is for the public generally to see and respect the fact that in positions of power and authority that women are well represented. that it is not an all male government. as it once was. >> reporter: in 1989 o'conner's role as a swing vote came into sharp focus in the case of webster versus reproductive health services. they sound webster as an opportunity to overturn roe versus wade. in 1989 it was not clear which way o'conner would vote. >> reporter: inside the crowded supreme court press room, tension. the webster abortion decision had to come down. this was supposed to be the last day for decigs until next term. then spokeswoman tony house broke the news. >> see you guys monday. >> no.
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>> reporter: one of the three decisions held back was webster versus reproductive health services. advocates tried to find sides. >> sandra day o'conner is the person that's in the middle. the best of the possible world would be that she side with roe versus wade. >> i assume this means we have a narrowly divided court which is appropriate because we have a divided country on this issue. >> reporter: and the result is people showing up to wait for the decision. they seemed to be ready to
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decide but they didn't, they waited another year. >> reporter: the ruling on webster came down and it reflected justice o'conner trade balancing act at the center of the court. while she waited to preserve roe versus wade she waited to come to a decision. just how close that vote had been. court conservatives were convinced they had the votes to overturn roe. but ten days before the ruling, justice o'conner changed her mind. she opted to uphold roe and also upholding decisions if they held the state's interest in upholding life. sandra day o o'conner paid a role in a presidential
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over the more than 200 years the united states supreme court has been operating it had handed down a number of highly controversial rulings. retired justice sandra day o'conner was asked what she considered the most difficult case before the court during her tenure. >> bush versus gore was the case that would bring the 2000 election after weeks of turmoil. as to whether the court had acted properly the majority was clear, 0-2. but whether the recount would meet federal election law the vote was 5-4 in favor of stopping the recall. we have two reports, first
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tracy mitchell and second randy shandobil on the ruling the court made. >> reporter: we'll hear argument now on number 00449 george w. bush versus al gore. >> reporter: gore's team wants the court to restart the recount it suspended last week. >> expect for four or five counties all of the counties would be completed about another day. and maybe even those counties could be now. >> reporter: some justices seem concerned that the standard for determining what constitutes the vote is to minimal. gore's attorney wants to count anything that deserns.
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>> reporter: the intense questioning during the 90 minute proceedings was interrupted by rare moments of laughter once when the attorney of federal of states called the justice by the wrong name twice. >> justice berner. >> i'm just telling you you better cut that out. >> reporter: neither candidate was in the courtroom but bush's legal team filled him in immediately after the proceedings. >> are you nervous. >> feel pretty calm. >> reporter: the united states supreme court rejected the florida supreme court's plan for a recount in florida and suggested they quickly come up with a new plan that would guarantee the same vote standards in all florida county. but in that same ruling the unite supreme court said there was no longer to do so. the december 12 deadline has come and within an hour ago
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passed. from the george w. bush camp, weber. >> they are of course very pleased and gratified. >> reporter: the five justices in the majority, rehnquist, scalia, sandra day o'connor. the four in the minority were ginsburg, briar, stevens and sutter. in his blistering decent justice stevens called the bush legal appeal a federal assault on the laws of florida. quote one thing is certain, although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is
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perfectly clear, it's the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian as the rule of the law. as of an hour ago, aids to gore said he had no decision on what to do next. we talked to congresswoman loghner and asked her to assume they ruled for gore. >> i believe that he will abide by the supreme court, he said he would and he should. >> reporter: in 2003, the united states supreme court handed down one of its most significant rulings on race in a generation. and again justice sandra day o'conner voted between the polar end of the court. the ruling said that affirmative action is constitutional and that the nation's public colleges and universities can use race as a
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consideration in admissions. but the high court also gave opponents of affirmative action a victory. ktvu channel 2 political editor randy shandobil first brought us this report in june of 2003. >> reporter: the supreme court actually issued two affirmative actions rulings today both having to do with the university of michigan. by just one vote, 5-4 the court ruled that the university's law school can continue to use race as a factor in its admission. the law school considers race, but only on a subjective case by case basis. >> i'm overjoyed, this is a huge victory. a tremendous victory for the new civil rights movement. >> reporter: but in a six will have three ruling the court ruled against the university's administration program saying that program goes too far because it awards bonus points to minority applicants giving them a clear advantage. jesse choper says today's
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rulings didn't necessarily break new ground, but are significant because in recent years, affirmative action has come under attack. >> this came very close to reaffirming the status quo. you want to have an affirmative action program you can do it so long as you structure it the right way. >> reporter: no to one admissions program, no to the other. the split division was called a victory because it gives her a constitutional road map to diversity. >> we're so happy, because the central principal is affirmative action may be used and that's what we were fighting for. >> white applicants who felt they were unfairly turned down by the university because of affirmative action filed lawsuits. today terry pell who's center for individual rights sued on their behalf also claimed a partial victory. >> i think what we're seeing today is the beginning of the end of race preferences, taking
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together both raised the bar higher and made it more difficult for schools to use race. >> reporter: nationally it'll have little action here in california why because of proposition 209 which bans affirmative action here. why doesn't federal law supersede california's prop 209? the answer is in the court's wording on race. >> you may use it. that's it. may is the keyword, right. in california -- >> so does it supersede california law. >> no, it does not. it does not say you must use it it says you may use it. >> reporter: when we come back, the case that gave us the phrase hostile working environment. and how sandra day o'connor wants to change the way judges are chosen in some states.
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if you were to ask any
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company's hr department about hostile work environment, they would go on with a definition of laws. >> reporter: the case came from a tennessee woman who sued her employer. >> i would have a naturally disappointed have the court ruled in a different way. yes we have one. >> reporter: in fact her victory was unanimous. the court broaden the definition of sexual harassment. >> it makes clear that
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employers have a duty to provide a workplace that's free of sexual based ridicule and insult. >> reporter: in her statement o'conner wrote, so far as the environment may be reasonably be perceived as hostile or abusive there -- it's serverty whether it's threatening or humiliates. barbara raba is an attorney about a book on sexual harassment. >> i think it knocked down on both end. you just can't bring a case of sexual harassment because someone told you a dirty joke once. it set a middle of the road standard and that's a safe place to be. >> reporter: just as clarence
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thomas who's own nomination was almost derailed by accusations of sexual harassment sat silently during the court hearing several months ago and issued no written opinion. >> should judges be elected, what retired justice o'connor thinks about that opinion.
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and that's skyler... and his mom, nancy. they're just a few of the californians who took it on themselves to send you a message about what they need to restore years of cuts to their schools. prop thirty-eight. thirty-eight raises billions in new revenue - bypasses sacramento and sends every k through 12 dollar straight to our local schools... every school. for them. for all of us. vote yes on thirty-eight.
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tonight on a second look we've been revisiting the life and career of retired supreme court justice sandra day o'connor. an appearance she talk about oppositions in some cases including california. >> redeveloped those, who knows all judges are nominated by the president they have to be with the advice and consent of the
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senate. the senate has to approve that selection by the president. now that's a further for justice. it has served our country well through the years. many states don't follow the example and they have popular elections of all their state judges. now that means that candidates run even for the state and courts in the state. and they need campaign contributions to pay for their ads and signs and all that stuff. who contributes moneys to them? it's the lawyers who are most likely to appear before them in court. now what kind of a system is that? isn't that funny. you know very well that judge representing different clients and he wants a judge that will give him a big hand me down.
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i think that is not the system we should have. california still elects some of its judges, and they shouldn't do that. a number of our states do it from the supreme court all the way down it's really shocking to me that after all these years we still have so many elected judges that is not good. so i have spent some time in my retirement years talking about this problem and writing a little bit about it and so on. because i feel strongly about that i don't think that's good. >> and that's it for this week's second look. i'm frank somerville. we'll see you again next week.
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Second Look
FOX November 4, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm PST

News/Business. Highlights of past news stories. (CC)

TOPIC FREQUENCY California 7, Florida 4, Webster 4, U.s. 4, Sandra 3, Sandra Day O'conner 3, Sandra Day O'connor 3, George W. Bush 2, O'conner 2, Reagan 2, Randy Shandobil 2, Stevens 2, Us 2, Wade 1, Ronald Reagan 1, Bruce Morgan 1, John O'conner 1, Weber 1, Ktvu 1, United States 1
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